Opinion

Herrington: Regarding discovery of a COVID-19 variant called ‘Omicron’

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On Tuesday, Nov. 23, the Arizona Department of Health Services and medical leaders appealed for Arizonans to do the following to curb the spread of COVID-19.

  • Get vaccinated, and get kids ages 5 and older vaccinated: azhealth.gov/FindVaccine;
  • If you are fully vaccinated and age 18 and older, get a booster: azhealth.gov/FindVaccine;
  • Mask up, physically distance, keep your hands washed, stay home if sick, and follow other prevention steps detailed at azhealth.gov/COVID-19;
  • If you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms, get tested and see if you qualify for monoclonal antibody treatment to reduce the severity of your illness: azdhs.gov/mAbs.

My advice today is the same, even after the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant, omicron, started generating intense global interest. And it’s the same advice we gave when the highly transmissible Delta variant quickly came to dominate early in the summer.

Omicron, with a high number of mutations, is indeed concerning, hence the attention from public health leaders worldwide. But too much remains unknown for it to be more than that at this time.

Scientists are assessing whether omicron’s mutations make it more transmissible, more severe, or resistant to current vaccines and antibody treatments. That information will come to ADHS from our federal partners at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, no cases of omicron have been detected in Arizona.

We are in regular contact with federal partners on matters related to COVID-19, including the Omicron variant, and will share important information as soon as we have it.

For now, however, I continue to urge everyone to follow the steps public health has recommended consistently. Vaccination, boosters, and mitigation are proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and nothing at this time suggests that won’t continue to be the case.

Editor’s note: Don Herrington is interim director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. Visit azdhs.gov.

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